Hi! We’re Miles and Teresa Tuffli of I’m Birding Right Now. Last year, we began volunteering for the PWA’s bird surveys. It’s been so much fun that we decided to document them. Below is the first of these installments. We’ll keep you up to date with an in-the-field perspective from these monthly counts – check back here for future reports!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018 was the monthly bird survey at Shollenberger Park. As you know, the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance is “dedicated to the stewardship, restoration, and expansion of publicly accessible wetlands and associated wildlife habitats.” Its monthly bird survey (alternating each month between Shollenberger Park and Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility) is just one of the many ways the PWA fulfills its mission statement. Tracking the number of bird species (as well as numbers of individuals within each species) provides valuable data that directly reflects the health of the wetlands habitat.

When we arrived just before sunrise on Tuesday we were greeted by a chill in the air, heavy fog, and the sound of hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds waking up in the reeds.

Low visibility at Shollenberger Park

Low visibility at Shollenberger Park

Shollenberger is a great place to study White-tailed Kites. We tallied 17 throughout the day. Check out the different shapes a White-tailed Kite can display in flight. Have you ever noticed the gray central tail feathers on its otherwise white tail? We hadn’t before!

White-tailed Kite flight collage from Shollenberger Park

White-tailed Kite

The marshy habitats of Shollenberger are also a great place to look and listen for various rails.

Virginia Rail at Shollenberger Park

Virginia Rail

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a quick little bird quiz… Can you tell what bird this is just from its shadow? See the end of this post for the answer!

Mystery Shadow at Shollenberger Park

Who is the caster of this shadow???

Though the fog made it difficult to make out much more than duck silhouettes, we still heard Green-winged Teals and American Wigeons vocalizing.

An hour or two into the morning, it looked as if the fog might burn off.

Mudflats at Shollenberger Park

Sun threatening to come out over the expansive mudflats

The lifting fog provided nice light for a flock of Bushtits that blew through.

Female Bushtit at Shollenberger Park

Bushtit (female)

Female Bushtit at Shollenberger Park

Bushtit (female)

 
Male Bushtit at Shollenberger Park

Bushtit (male)

We spotted a Striped Skunk!

Striped skunk at Shollenberger Park

Keep your distance!

This goofy Rock Pigeon was as surprised as anyone that the sun finally came out.

Rock Pigeon at Shollenberger Park

Rock Pigeon

View of Petaluma River from Shollenberger Park

Petaluma River

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet posed briefly for us. What a treat – these guys never sit still!

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Shollenberger Park

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We caught this Song Sparrow red-handed… or rather, “red-beaked”!

Song Sparrow at Shollenberger Park

Song Sparrow

On the homestretch of the loop at Shollenberger Park

On the homestretch of the loop

Answer to Bird Quiz: So who was the caster of that shadow from earlier in the post?

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It was a Snowy Egret! Did you guess correctly? You can really see why its nickname is “Golden Slippers”!

Snowy Egret at Shollenberger Park

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret at Shollenberger Park

Snowy Egret

Contributing to the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance in this way brings us great satisfaction. Not only do we appreciate helping an organization dedicated to stewardship of our local wetlands, but it’s always a pleasure to share a day of birding with other nature-loving members of our community.

When it was all said and done, the grand total for this December 2018 survey ended up at 63 species. If you have any questions about this particular count or if you’re interested in participating in future counts, please contact the coordinator/compiler for these surveys, Len Nelson, at [email protected]

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